Welcome to the first installment of our new series Get To Know A Youth Star. Since most of us are based in the United States we don't really have the ability to go to reserve and U-18 games. We don't get to see many games from English teams outside of the Premier League so it's hard to know as much as we probably should about Tottenham Hotspur's young players.
Think of it this way, if these guys were minor league players we would know every single thing there is to know about them and would have already formed a very solid opinion of our expectations for that player. I don't think that's quite the case with some of these young Spurs players.
John Bostock is the first player we'll be profiling in this series. Bostock is an appropriate player to start with, if only because he's a great cautionary tale for how to deal with young talent, particularly young English talent. Many of you probably remember the story of Bostock's contentious transfer from Crystal Palace, but let's quickly recap.
In 2007 Bostock became Crystal Palace's youngest player ever. He made only 5 total appearances for the club during the 2007-2008 season, but during that same time he was named captain of the England U-17 side. In May, 2008 the Spurs website announced that Bostock had been signed by the club. Palace immediately refuted the claim and the two clubs entered negotiations over Bostock. The two clubs had to go before a "League Tribunal" before an agreement on a fee of £700,000 with escalator clauses could be reached.Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan claimed he felt "mugged and brutalized". He even went so far as to compare Bostock to Aaron Ramsey, which in hindsight seems very silly. Bostock opened the ill-fated 2008-2009 campaign in the U-18 team with the hope of getting some games in the cup competitions. Bostock made his first team debut, becoming the youngest Spurs player ever, on November 6, 2008 in a UEFA Cup match against Dinamo Zagreb. He would go on to make two more appearances for the club, both in the UEFA Cup.
The following season it was determined that Bostock would benefit from playing more often and was loaned to League One side Brentford. The attacking midfielder scored on his debut and added one more goal in ten total appearances for the club. Over the summer Bostock represented England at the U-19 European Championships.
Bostock began the 2010-2011 season on loan at recently relegated Hull City. In the first game of the season, also his debut, Bostock scored this screamer, which was eventually named Hull's Goal of the Season. Bostock scored twice (his second was pretty nice too) for Hull in 11 games, but returned to Tottenham in December and returned to the U-18 squad.
In his professional career John Bostock has appeared in 29 first-team games and scored four goals. He's still only 19, but it feels like he's been around forever. To me, Bostock seems like an English Adel Taarabt. He is at times brilliant and at others completely brainless. The goals he scores are magnificent and yet he has failed to make a real impact everywhere he was been. Perhaps he, like Taarabt, needs a change of scenery and full-time football to finally realize his potential.
If there were ever a club that had the right kind of players to help mentor Bostock that club would be Tottenham Hotspur. Having the likes of Rafael Van der Vaart, Luka Modric, and Niko Kranjcar around to aid him in his development and understanding of the game can only be a good thing. However Spurs' track record with attacking midfielders (see Giovani Dos Santos and Adel Taarabt) is not that good. To me Bostock seems most like Niko. He has an eye for goal and strikes the ball well. His work rate isn't terribly high, but he's versatile enough to play all across the midfield.
Perhaps with Niko (potentially) departing Bostock will be asked to fill his role off the bench. Is Bostock a better option than Gio? In some respects, yes. Bostock is under 21 and therefore would not need to be registered in the 25 man squad and he's a homegrown player, which is also helpful. However, when compared side to side on skill I don't think Bostock is anywhere near the level of dos Santos.
In 2012 John Bostock will turn 20 and he will have been at Spurs for four seasons. The team will be competing on four fronts and Tim Sherwood has already said that the club with be using its youngsters in the UEFA Cup campaign. Bostock could make an impact in these games. If he's not going to play in those games then he should be loaned back to a Championship Squad and allowed to play games. This is really a make or break season for the youngster's career with Spurs, which is unfortunate given his age.